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Borrower has Standing to Challenge Forclosing Entity to Show Assignment is VOID! (but not to show merely "voidable")

February 17, 2016

The logic of defendants’ no-prejudice argument implies that anyone, even a stranger to the debt, could declare a default and order a trustee’s sale—and the borrower would be left with no recourse because, after all, he or she owed the debt to someone, though not to the foreclosing entity. This would be an “odd result” indeed. (Reinagel, supra, 735 F.3d at p. 225.) As a district court observed in rejecting the no-prejudice argument, “[b]anks are neither private attorneys general nor bounty hunters, armed with a roving commission to seek out defaulting homeowners and take away their homes in satisfaction of some other bank’s deed of trust.” (Miller v. Homecomings Financial, LLC (S.D.Tex. 2012) 881 F.Supp.2d 825, 832.)

Defendants note correctly that a plaintiff in Yvanova’s position, having suffered an allegedly unauthorized nonjudicial foreclosure of her home, need not now fear another creditor coming forward to collect the debt. The home can only be foreclosed once, and the trustee’s sale extinguishes the debt. (Code Civ. Proc., § 580d; Dreyfuss v. Union Bank of California, supra, 24 Cal.4th at p. 411.) But as the Attorney General points out in her amicus curiae brief, a holding that anyone may foreclose on a defaulting home loan borrower would multiply the risk for homeowners that they might face a foreclosure at some point in the life of their loans. The possibility that multiple parties could each foreclose at some time, that is, increases the borrower’s overall risk of foreclosure.

Defendants suggest that to establish prejudice the plaintiff must allege and prove that the true beneficiary under the deed of trust would have refrained from foreclosing on the plaintiff’s property. Whatever merit this rule would have as to prejudice as an element of the wrongful foreclosure tort, it misstates the type of injury required for standing. A homeowner who has been foreclosed on by one with no right to do so has suffered an injurious invasion of his or her legal rights at the foreclosing entity’s hands. No more is required for standing to sue. (Angelucci v. Century Supper Club, supra, 41 Cal.4th at p. 175.)

Neither Caulfield v. Sanders (1861) 17 Cal. 569 nor Seidell v. Tuxedo Land Co. (1932) 216 Cal. 165, upon which defendants rely, holds or implies a home loan borrower may not challenge a foreclosure by alleging a void assignment….

For these reasons, we conclude Glaski, supra, 218 Cal.App.4th 1079, was correct to hold a wrongful foreclosure plaintiff has standing to claim the foreclosing entity’s purported authority to order a trustee’s sale was based on a void assignment of the note and deed of trust. Jenkins, supra, 216 Cal.App.4th 497, spoke too broadly in holding a borrower lacks standing to challenge an assignment of the note and deed of trust to which the borrower was neither a party nor a third party beneficiary. Jenkins’s rule may hold as to claimed defects that would make the assignment merely voidable, but not as to alleged defects rendering the assignment absolutely void.[1]

In embracing Glaski’s rule that borrowers have standing to challenge assignments as void, but not as voidable, we join several courts around the nation. (Wilson v. HSBC Mortgage Servs., Inc., supra, 744 F.3d at p. 9; Reinagel, supra, 735 F.3d at pp. 224–225; Woods v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (1st Cir. 2013) 733 F.3d 349, 354; Culhane, supra, 708 F.3d at pp. 289–291; Miller v. Homecomings Financial, LLC, supra, 881 F.Supp.2d at pp. 831–832; Bank of America Nat. Assn. v. Bassman FBT, LLC, supra, 981 N.E.2d at pp. 7–8; Pike v. Deutsche Bank Nat. Trust Co. (N.H. 2015) 121 A.3d 279, 281; Mruk v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., supra, 82 A.3d at pp. 534–536; Dernier v. Mortgage Network, Inc. (Vt. 2013) 87 A.3d 465, 473.) Indeed, as commentators on the issue have stated: “[C]ourts generally permit challenges to assignments if such challenges would prove that the assignments were void as opposed to voidable.” (Zacks & Zacks

…For these reasons, we conclude Glaski, supra, 218 Cal.App.4th 1079, was correct to hold a wrongful foreclosure plaintiff has standing to claim the foreclosing entity’s purported authority to order a trustee’s sale was based on a void assignment of the note and deed of trust. Jenkins, supra, 216 Cal.App.4th 497, spoke too broadly in holding a borrower lacks standing to challenge an assignment of the note and deed of trust to which the borrower was neither a party nor a third party beneficiary. Jenkins’s rule may hold as to claimed defects that would make the assignment merely voidable, but not as to alleged defects rendering the assignment absolutely void.[2]

In embracing Glaski’s rule that borrowers have standing to challenge assignments as void, but not as voidable, we join several courts around the nation. (Wilson v. HSBC Mortgage Servs., Inc., supra, 744 F.3d at p. 9; Reinagel, supra, 735 F.3d at pp. 224–225; Woods v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (1st Cir. 2013) 733 F.3d 349, 354; Culhane, supra, 708 F.3d at pp. 289–291; Miller v. Homecomings Financial, LLC, supra, 881 F.Supp.2d at pp. 831–832; Bank of America Nat. Assn. v. Bassman FBT, LLC, supra, 981 N.E.2d at pp. 7–8; Pike v. Deutsche Bank Nat. Trust Co. (N.H. 2015) 121 A.3d 279, 281; Mruk v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., supra, 82 A.3d at pp. 534–536; Dernier v. Mortgage Network, Inc. (Vt. 2013) 87 A.3d 465, 473.) Indeed, as commentators on the issue have stated: “[C]ourts generally permit challenges to assignments if such challenges would prove that the assignments were void as opposed to voidable.” (Zacks & Zacks) …

While unreported federal court decisions may be cited in California as persuasive authority (Kan v. Guild Mortgage Co. (2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 736, 744, fn. 3), in this instance they lack persuasive value…

Siliga, similarly, followed Jenkins in disapproving a preemptive lawsuit. (Siliga, supra, 219 Cal.App.4th at p. 82.) Without discussing Glaski, the Siliga court also held the borrower plaintiffs failed to show any prejudice from, and therefore lacked standing to challenge, the assignment of their deed of trust to the foreclosing entity. (Siliga, at p. 85.) As already explained, this prejudice analysis misses the mark in the wrongful foreclosure context. When a property has been sold at a trustee’s sale at the direction of an entity with no legal authority to do so, the borrower has suffered a cognizable injury.

In further support of a borrower’s standing to challenge the foreclosing party’s authority, plaintiff points to provisions of the recent legislation known as the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, enacted in 2012 and effective only after the trustee’s sale in this case. (See Leuras v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 49, 86, fn. 14.)[3] Having concluded without reference to this legislation that borrowers do have standing to challenge an assignment as void, we need not decide whether the new provisions provide additional support for that holding.

Conclusion

We conclude a home loan borrower has standing to claim a nonjudicial foreclosure was wrongful because an assignment by which the foreclosing party purportedly took a beneficial interest in the deed of trust was not merely voidable but void, depriving the foreclosing party of any legitimate authority to order a trustee’s sale. The Court of Appeal took the opposite view and, solely on that basis, concluded plaintiff could not amend her operative complaint to plead a cause of action for wrongful foreclosure. We must therefore reverse the Court of Appeal’s judgment and allow that court to reconsider the question of an amendment to plead wrongful foreclosure. We express no opinion on whether plaintiff has alleged facts showing a void assignment, or on any other issue relevant to her ability to state a claim for wrongful foreclosure.

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[1] We disapprove Jenkins v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., supra, 216 Cal.App.4th 497, Siliga v. Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., supra, 219 Cal.App.4th 75, Fontenot v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., supra, 198 Cal.App.4th 256, and Herrera v. Federal National Mortgage Assn., supra, 205 Cal.App.4th 1495, to the extent they held borrowers lack standing to challenge an assignment of the deed of trust as void.

[2] We disapprove Jenkins v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., supra, 216 Cal.App.4th 497, Siliga v. Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., supra, 219 Cal.App.4th 75, Fontenot v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., supra, 198 Cal.App.4th 256, and Herrera v. Federal National Mortgage Assn., supra, 205 Cal.App.4th 1495, to the extent they held borrowers lack standing to challenge an assignment of the deed of trust as void.

[3] Plaintiff cites newly added provisions that prohibit any entity from initiating a foreclosure process “unless it is the holder of the beneficial interest under the mortgage or deed of trust, the original trustee or the substituted trustee under the deed of trust, or the designated agent of the holder of the beneficial interest” (§ 2924, subd. (a)(6)); require the loan servicer to inform the borrower, before a notice of default is filed, of the borrower’s right to request copies of any assignments of the deed of trust “required to demonstrate the right of the mortgage servicer to foreclose” (§ 2923.55, subd. (b)(1)(B)(iii)); and require the servicer to ensure the documentation substantiates the right to foreclose (§ 2924.17, subd. (b)). The legislative history indicates the addition of these provisions was prompted in part by reports that nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings were being initiated on behalf of companies with no authority to foreclose. (See Sen. Rules Com., Conference Rep. on Sen. Bill No. 900 (2011–2012 Reg. Sess.) as amended June 27, 2012, p. 26.)

 

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------------------------------------
Nancy Duffy McCarron, CBN 164780
Attorney, Real Estate Broker, BBB Arbitrator, CA Notary Public
Certified Forensic Loan Auditor, Property Manager

 

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